Defining Moments in Church History…(8)

The Great Awakening (A.D. 1734-1744) makes our list of the eight defining moments as this amazing decade launched much of what has become evangelical Christianity in America. Evangelism took on many new forms as the preaching of the Gospel moved from the church house to  the community in one of the most remarkable and widespread revivals in the Church’s history.

While some can argue otherwise, the often-accepted launch point of the Great Awakening came with the preaching of Jonathan Edwards. Sermons, such as, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, generated powerful moments of response as the sense of God’s judgment on sin and sinner compelled people by the hundreds to respond. Though generally believed to be a less than demonstrative preacher, Edwards’ messages stirred enormous demonstrations of penitence.

While Edwards’ sermons were rattling the conscience of northeastern America, Charles and John Wesley were preaching in open-air settings across the mid-Atlantic states and beyond. The Wesleys, famed founders of what would become the Methodist church, often traveled on horseback, preaching half a dozen times each day to ever-increasing crowds.

Perhaps the greatest voice of the era proved to be George Whitfield, Whitfield, whose voice could fill a countryside with no aid of amplification, is often considered the father of mass evangelism, and his crusades stirred thousands to faith in Christ.

While a short blog doesn’t provide room for a full treatment of the impact of the Great Awakening, we should understand that this remarkable revival stirred the Church in America from its secluded and somewhat exclusive utopian ideal and restored a passion for the lost–those once deemed heathen and deserving of their apparently fore-ordained destiny. A new and powerful outward focus would change the church, not just in its attendance, but in its theology and sense of purpose. Indeed, outward focus is the only thing that has ever helped the Church get healthy and back on track.

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